Farmhouse Dining Table - Walnut and Alder




Introduction: Farmhouse Dining Table - Walnut and Alder

About: Find me on YouTube and Instagram (@robertjkeller)!

Here's how I made this farmhouse dining table. There is also amplifying information in the Closed Captioning of this video.

Step 1: Milling the Rough Lumber (1/6)

I started by freehand cutting 7 walnut boards down to approximately 7 feet using a circular saw.

Step 2: Milling the Rough Lumber (2/6)

These are 6/4 walnut boards, or an inch and a half thick. The following steps show how I milled the lumber myself, but you can always have this done for you if you don't have a jointer and planer.

Step 3: Milling the Rough Lumber (3/6)

First, I flattened one face of each board on the jointer. I kept running it through until it was smooth and completely flat.

Step 4: Milling the Rough Lumber (4/6)

Then, using the flattened face as a reference against the jointer fence, I straightened one edge of each board. Again, I just kept running it through, taking off about 1/16th of an inch until it was completely flat and smooth.

Step 5: Milling the Rough Lumber (5/6)

I flattened the opposite face of each board by running it through a thickness planer.

Step 6: Milling the Rough Lumber (6/6)

I then straightened the remaining edge of each board on the table saw. Now all of the boards had 4 flat sides, all 90 degree corners, and a constant thickness. The boards ended up being a little under 6 inches wide.

Step 7: Biscuit Joining the Table Top

I cut slots for biscuits in each board. This is optional, but makes the glue up much easier. I just marked the locations on each board, then aligned the mark to the mark on the biscuit joiner. I used size 30 biscuits.

Step 8: Gluing Up the Table Top (1/4)

To makes things a little easier on myself, I glued up 3 of the 7 boards first, then the other 4, and then glued those 2 "halves" together. I used Titebond II wood glue.

Step 9: Gluing Up the Table Top (2/4)

I used some angle iron as makeshift cauls to help keep each section flat. This is optional.

Step 10: Gluing Up the Table Top (3/4)

For the final glue up, I used 3/4 inch pipe clamps. You can use any kind of clamps you want, just make sure you get a good, even squeeze out.

Step 11: Gluing Up the Table Top (4/4)

I also used angle iron cauls for the final glue up. Again, this is optional, but helps prevent cupping of the boards due to the clamping pressure.

Step 12: Squaring Up the Ends

I didn't have a track saw at this point, so I used a guide and a circular saw to trim the ends even. I simply clamped down the straight edge guide and ran the rail of my circular saw against it. The table was just under 7 feet long after this step.

Step 13: Making the Breadboard Ends (1/19)

I cut/milled a couple boards to just over 3 feet that would become the breadboard ends. Breadboard ends help keep the table flat over time while allowing for expansion/contraction of the wood due to moisture/humidity changes. Here I am transferring the center of the 7 long boards into each breadboard end.

Step 14: Making the Breadboard Ends (2/19)

I used this jig that I made for my plunge router to cut the mortises into the breadboards. This jig can be made many ways, but basically all you need is a rectangle in something that you can clamp to the end of a board. Then you use a "template bearing" in a plunge router to route out the area under the rectangle.

Step 15: Making the Breadboard Ends (3/19)

The middle mortise in each breadboard is a "tight" mortise. In other words, the floating tenon won't have any wiggle room.

Step 16: Making the Breadboard Ends (4/19)

The remaining (6) mortises in each breadboard will be "loose" tenons. In other words, there will be about a quarter inch of play in each direction for the tenon to move left and right as the table swells wider (higher humidity) and shrinks narrower (dryer air) over time. Here you can see three marks on the template. For tight mortises, I just aligned my mark with the center one. For loose mortises, I aligned my mark with the left one and then the right one, resulting in a wider mortise.

Step 17: Making the Breadboard Ends (5/19)

Here you can see the middle tenon fits tightly into the middle mortise in the breadboard end.

Step 18: Making the Breadboard Ends (6/19)

Here (in a breadboard end mortise that isn't the middle mortise) you can see a gap that allows some wiggle room for the tenon. I repeated this process on the other breadboard end.

Step 19: Making the Breadboard Ends (7/19)

Here I'm routing the mortises in the table itself. All the mortises in the table itself are tight mortises. I did this on each end of the table in all 7 boards.

Step 20: Making the Breadboard Ends (8/19)

I cut some mahogany down to the correct width and thickness, rounded over the corners with a round over bit in the router to match the mortises, and cut them to the correct height at the miter saw. You could also round over the corners with a belt sander.

Step 21: Making the Breadboard Ends (9/19)

I drilled 3/8 inch holes in the breadboard to drive pins through to lock the breadboard in place.

Step 22: Making the Breadboard Ends (10/19)

Here I'm using the 3/8 inch drill bit to transfer a mark onto each tenon.

Step 23: Making the Breadboard Ends (11/19)

I drilled through the tenons about 1/32 of an inch closer to the table than the mark....

Step 24: Making the Breadboard Ends (12/19)

...this causes an offset that will make the pins pull the
breadboard tight toward the table, making a very strong joint. This is called "draw-boring."

Step 25: Making the Breadboard Ends (13/19)

I glued each tenon into the tabletop mortises, carefully removing all the excess glue so it wouldn't dry and affect the fit of the breadboard.

Step 26: Making the Breadboard Ends (14/19)

I cut the pins from a 3/8 inch oak dowel and rounded the ends on a belt sander. The length of the pins doesn't really matter... you'll want to cut them longer than you need, then trim them flush after gluing them in.

Step 27: Making the Breadboard Ends (15/19)

I used a router with an edge guide to extend the pin holes in the tenons left and right. This will allow the pins to move left and right as the table expands/contracts. This is NOT done in the middle tenon because the table will expand/contract from the middle outward.

Step 28: Making the Breadboard Ends (16/19)

Here you can see the hole in the middle tenon isn't extended; the remaining 6 are. This is repeated on the opposite end of the table.

Step 29: Making the Breadboard Ends (17/19)

Glue is only applied to the middle of the table/breadboard. The breadboard isn't glued anywhere else because then it wouldn't allow the tabletop to expand/contract. Again, this is because each board expands and contracts across its grain from the middle outward.

Step 30: Making the Breadboard Ends (18/19)

The middle pin is glued all the way through the tenon and the breadboard.

Step 31: Making the Breadboard Ends (19/19)

The remaining pins need to be able to move back and forth in the tenon, so they are driven into the tenon unglued, then glue is applied only where they will be in contact with the breadboard. This will keep them from popping out over time.

Step 32: Squaring Up the Long Ends

I trimmed the long edges of the table with a newly acquired track saw. Use a framing square to make sure you are at 90 degrees to the adjoining end.

Step 33: Making the Legs (1/2)

I laminated 4 3/4" thick alder boards to together make the legs. After the glue dried, I squared them up on the jointer and planer. You could also just buy pre-made 4"x4"s or pre-made table legs online.

Step 34: Making the Legs (2/2)

After the glue dried, I trimmed them to 29 inches using a stop block and my miter saw. The total height of the table should be around 30 inches.

Step 35: Making the Base (1/4)

After laying out the legs where I wanted them, I measured and cut the pieces for the apron, then glued in some 45 degree cross braces for support and for the legs to connect to. These measurements where just eyeballed-- it's personal preference, really. I had a 3 inch overhang all around the table.

Step 36: Making the Base (2/4)

Then I basically doubled everything up. You don't really need to measure for this... Just mark each piece in the spot that it will actually go.

Step 37: Making the Base (3/4)

I just kept measuring, cutting, and gluing in pieces to interlock and reinforce everything, clamping for 24 hours until the glue dried.

Step 38: Making the Base (4/4)

A little tough to see here, but I used a router and a rabbeting bit to cut slots in the inside of the base. These will be used to attach the tabletop to the base with metal mirror brackets (shown later). For the same reason we allow for wood movement with the breadboard ends, we don't want to just screw the base to the tabletop because it wouldn't allow expansion and contraction of the wood. These slots don't need to be anywhere specific... they will be hidden after all.

Step 39: Attaching the Legs to the Base (1/2)

I clamped the legs in place to drill holes through the cross braces and into each leg. Again, this will hidden, so just go for it!

Step 40: Attaching the Legs to the Base (2/2)

Then I used a 4 inch lag bolt and a washer in each leg to attach it. You can use 2 bolts here if you want, but just one is super strong.

Step 41: Finishing the Base

I spackled the knots in the base, sanded up to 220 grit, and applied 3 coats of white latex paint, lightly sanding between coats

Step 42: Finishing the Table Top (1/3)

I used epoxy resin to fill any knots or imperfections in the walnut tabletop. Apply enough to overfill the holes, then sand everything flush when sanding the tabletop.

Step 43: Finishing the Table Top (2/3)

Then I sanded the tabletop with 80, 150, and 220 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander.

Step 44: Finishing the Table Top (3/3)

I used Rubio Monocoat "Pure" oil for the tabletop, per the included instructions. Just wipe it on, let it sit for 15 minutes, then wipe off the excess. It's a very easy to use product.

Step 45: Attaching the Top to the Base

Lastly, I used the metal mirror brackets to attach the base to the top. Just screw in the tabs so they catch the slots that were rabbeted out before. I cut six slots, but found that 4 brackets were plenty of strength.

Step 46: Finished Shots

Some more shots of the finished table. Hope this was helpful/interesting!

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    Question 3 years ago on Introduction

    Is there a good reason for using alder for the frame & legs, or would poplar (half the price) work just as well since it's being painted anyhow?


    4 years ago on Step 46

    Turned out fantastic! Very well documented! Thanks for sharing!


    4 years ago

    Nice table! Some serious investment in that top - walnut isn't cheap (at least not in my neck of the woods). Congratulations on being one of the few builds I've seen that takes the difference in wood expansion (width vs. length) into account.

    A few things you may want to consider should you ever do another table of similar design:

    1) Use one of the online wood-expansion calculators to determine how much your top will / could expand, and use that dimension to determine how much "slip" to add to your tenon slots. It's also worth noting that the tenon slots toward middle of the table don't need to be very wide - maybe Pin Dia +1/8th inch - and the slots will get progressively wider toward the outer edges of the table - up to a bit more than half of the total expansion you could expect across the whole top.

    2) Mirror clips will probably work, but might prove to be a bit flimsy over time. There are some heavy-duty clips available for attaching a table-top - they're thicker and the metal is stronger than your average mirror bracket.

    3) Aliphatic resin glue (yellow glues) remain "liquid" over time and can swell / move - especially in stressed laminations. You probably won't have any issues, but the glue seams can end up "proud" of the table surface depending on the conditions the table is subject to (moisture and heat). You might want to check out polyurethane glue (Gorilla is my go-to brand) - it's stronger, fully cures, fills gaps, and doesn't dull tools or gum up sandpaper. I rarely use yellow glue any more.

    4) When applying paint to wood, it's a really good idea to use a primer first. Most paints don't really bond well to bare wood. The primer acts as an interface between the wood and the paint. Again, you may not have any problems, but priming is a way to significantly reduce the possibility of the paint peeling/flaking/cracking (the type of primer will be determined by what the paint manufacturer recommends).

    Don't take this as criticism - it's not. It's information I've gathered over years of woodworking (and learning how to do things better) that I thought might be useful to you in the future ;)

    Again, nice table .... it will probably be around longer than we will :)


    Reply 4 years ago

    Wow, thanks for taking the time to share all that knowledge! I will definitely keep all these things in mind.


    4 years ago

    The detailed explanation of how you made the breadboard ends was fantastic. Thank you, I will refer back to this for sure if I ever want to use that technique. Wonderful job!


    4 years ago

    That sir is an excellent Instructable. Well written and documented. The explanation on attaching the breadboard ends was appreciated to. Beautiful table.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks! Glad you liked it.